MANIAC COP (1988)
Directed by William Lustig
Written by Larry Cohen
Starring Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon
A whole neighbourhood panics after several innocent citizens are found brutally murdered. After his estranged wife is killed, officer Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) is accused by the captain as the maniac serial killer. Desperate to prove his innocence and to find the real murderer, fellow police officers detective Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) and Jack’s girlfriend, Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon), must help to find the maniac cop before he kills again.
The bulk of this movie is carried by acting legend Tom Atkins, who captivates as McCrae. McCrae rebels and plays by his own rules after the police department refuse to release information about three people murdered by a 6ft odd homicidal maniac dressed in police uniform. His superiors would rather blame anyone but their own but after officer Forrest is setup to look like the villian, they are all too happy to pin the murders on him. McCrae knows otherwise and sets out to discover which cop is really the killer. Atkins convinces as the smart detective and you find yourself cheering him on as he slowly uncovers the identity of the killer.
Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell stars as police officer Jack Forrest alongside Laurene Landon’s officer Theresa Mallory. The majority of their scenes together are towards the end in which they share a believable chemistry. Landon outshines Campbell in her role with a much jucier storyline involving several run-ins with the maniac cop.
From the beginning of the film, we are introduced to the maniac cop, though we are unaware it is he at the time, as he puts on his uniform and equips himself with his handcuffs and baton. It isn’t long before we see the cop in action but what the viewer is shown is not much more than a tall shadowy figure in the dead of night. The stark contrast of a pair of white gloves as he picks up and strangles his victim leaves a shocking imprint on our mind. Similar murders afterwards give us nothing extra to chew over. We start to think, “Who is this guy?”. As broad as he is tall and with the strength of an ox, is this guy even human? The film makes good use of this, even in later scenes as a little more is revealed by showing the scarred hands of the crazed cop. However, the film finally hits a wrong note by showing the face of the killer. At this point the whole mystery was ruined for me, however this is towards the end of the film. Creating an aura of mystery and intrigue is what made the cop terrifying. By removing that and showing him in all his glory, they humanised the character and no longer made him a threat.
With plenty of gore and brutal killings, Maniac Cop is an enjoyable blood-splattered thriller which entertains on most part though falls at the final hurdle.
Arrowdrome have just released Maniac Cop on DVD and the disc includes special features such as a trailer and an intro and interview with star Tom Atkins, in which he discusses Maniac Cop and previous films.